One of the things I stress a lot in my math resources is that math isn’t confined to a textbook. As I’ve been following the presidential elections this year, it occurred to me that it provides a great opportunity to show students math in action. Math is used quite a bit behind the scenes in determining each party’s candidate. Consider these applications:
- Probably the most obvious math concept the elections show in action is percents. What percent of the vote went for each candidate? What percent of a specific area went to each candidate? What percent of the total delegates to a convention does each candidate have pledged to them? How many votes would a candidate have to receive in order to earn a specific percent if 40% of a specific population end up voting?
- More percents and other math concepts are used in determining how many delegates are actually assigned to each candidate after an election. This article by the Washington Times gives an overview.
- Addition (along with more percents, as well as formulas) are used behind the scenes in deciding how many delegates each state gets to send to the national conventions in the first place. See The Green Papers: Republican Detailed Delegate Allocation – 2016 for more details about the republican side; and The Green Papers: Democratic Detailed Delegate Allocation – 2016 for the democrat side.
- Statistics show up extensively throughout the election process. Polls are based on surveying a random sample of the population and trying to determine the views of the whole off of it. It’s a great time to look at how statistics work (and how easily they can be twisted). See Chapter 11 in Principles of Mathematics for an overview and example.
As you follow the elections, consider looking into your particular state’s primary or caucus system and examining the math behind it. Point out the use of percents, addition, etc. Look at the statistics behind a couple of presidential polls and at what they truly tell us.
Then sit back and remember that math only proves useful because this universe is consistent, and because God gave man the ability to subdue the earth. We’re made uniquely in God’s image, created to worship Him. Remind your students that math is far from meaningless bookwork—it’s a real-life tool that helps us in the tasks God has given us to do.